"Developments in Afghanistan since February 2018, including a potential change in the U.S. stance toward direct talks with the Taliban, have increased the prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict there. In August 2017, President Trump said, 'Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.' In the following months, American military operations intensified, with the number of U.S. troops in the country rising to about 15,000. A flurry of recent official visits to the region signal a possible new emphasis on efforts to settle the war. Many continue to describe the conflict as stalemated. Reports that President Trump (who acknowledged that 'my original instinct was to pull out') 'has expressed his frustration with the war and is desperate to see its end' are a commonly cited explanation for this new push. A grassroots Afghan initiative, which originated in March 2018 in the southern province of Helmand as a protest calling on both sides to lay down arms, spread throughout the country and culminated in a march to Kabul in June, raising expectations for peace talks."
CRS Insight, IN10935